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Federal Budget 09: A confusing mix.

May 18th, 2009 · Greg Atkinson · 34 Comments

I guess the word confused would best describe my reaction to the Federal Budget handed down by the Government last week. I was expecting some tough decisions to be made so that Australia could emerge from this recession in fairly good shape, but instead the Budget had no clear direction and it seems the Government is hoping that by throwing money at major infrastructure projects that it can appease the public until China saves the day.

I do not have a problem with the Government trying to lessen the impact of the recession by funding some major infrastructure projects but the spending has to be focused, deliver clear benefits to the economy and be kept to a minimum. But the spending outlined in the budget looks like a uncoordinated mix of mainly road and rail projects aimed more at propping up voter support than making the nation more globally competitive.

What I would have liked to have seen was more of a balance between traditional infrastructure spending and incentives for the private sector to invest in such areas renewable energy, medical research and modern transport links.

I also do not understand the logic behind giving out another round of tax cuts as the country plunges into debt. The Rudd Government could have made a truly courageous decision and cancelled the tax cuts in order to help keep debt more under control, but they took the easy option and this highlights the fact that Kevin Rudd is not an economic conservative as he often claims. He is the sort of leader that will spend big to remain popular and the problem is that he is spending our money!

I suspect few people will be against the extra money for pensioners and carers but again the Budget seems to lack direction as it also pushes back the eligible age for the pension to 67 (gradually from 2017). We are told this is because Australia’s ageing population will place a significant burden on future budgets in the decades ahead, but if this is so why not encourage more self funded retirees and provide tax breaks for people who remain in the workforce after 65?

I am sure if a conservative government dared to push back the retirement age there would be howls of protest from the unions, but they seem amazingly quiet on the subject at present. I wonder why that is? (perhaps because they got what they wanted in other areas of the budget)

The extra spending on health is welcome but here again we see the Rudd Government lacking direction because at the same time they are also pulling money out of the overall health system by cutting rebates for private health insurance.

The network of private hospitals and clinics across Australia are important alternative to the public health system and I fail to see why any government would be trying to push people towards public hospitals when many of them are simply poorly run and managed. Why do we have a Government that seems intent on pushing the private sector out of healthcare?

The truth is that the cut in private health insurance rebate has nothing to do with the recession or the need to reduce government spending, it is simply Labor Party policy being implemented via the back door using the global economic downturn as a cover.

Rudd and Swan have also tried to suggest that the reason the Government needs to spend so much on infrastructure etc. is because the Howard Government failed to invest in the nation when in power. However they fail to mention that Howard and Costello first had to pay down debt left by the Keating Government and I suspect in some years time another Coalition Government will need to pay off Rudd’s debt.

It is also curious that nobody seems to be asking what the State Governments did with all the money they took into during the boom years.

Any Government can borrow and spend big, this is not difficult to do and is the path the Rudd Government has taken. Instead of making some truly hard decisions, the Budget is aimed at keeping Kev07 popular thereby delaying any real pain until he has safely taken up a role in the U.N. By that time we will finally be coming to grips with the true cost of Rudd and Swan’s budget follies.

But maybe I am being too harsh because although Wayne Swan might be unable to put together a decent budget, he sure does have some pretty sound shopping tips as you can see in this clip below. As you watch this video just remember this is the same man who is responsible for managing billions of dollars or our money so be afraid, be very afraid.

I can hardly wait for Wayne’s consumer tips during the next election campaign!

34 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Senator13 // May 18, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    His docket says -$57.6bn last time I checked… I don’t suppose we can take it all back to the store for a refund?

  • 2 Ned S // May 18, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    The Libs were no different – Howard government tax cuts, baby bonus, family allowances etc.

    All comes back the same old story – ” … the short-run incentives to governments are the opposite of the long-run needs for economic stability.” (Ian Macfarlane, 2006)

  • 3 Ned S // May 19, 2009 at 7:43 am

    I’ve tried to play devil’s advocate on this – From a politician’s perspective – About the most charitable take on it I can come with is that if a polly finds the nation blessed with good fortune and loads of surplus cash, what could be more natural than for a loving father to want his children to benefit enjoy that new found bounty.

    That would work if a chap is a very young or ignorant father who doesn’t have any clues about a few basics like life often throws a few bad times in amongst the good or any concept of generational wealth building. But if a polly wants to qualify for Father of the Nation sort of status he probably has to be the more pragmatic type with a good dose of long term focus mixed in.

    I’m reminded of the proverb “A father is a banker provided by nature.” Wonder if Australia has ever had one?

  • 4 Greg Atkinson // May 19, 2009 at 8:14 am

    Ned S – I think the difference with the Libs is that they do tend to balance the books. I see Kevin admitted last night on ABCTV (as reported by the SMH) that debt will hit $300 billion. That is a lot of debt and I suspect we will see the debt blow out past $300 billion once projects start to run over budget. I would question the financial sanity of anyone who would hand out tax cuts knowing that national debt was heading to that level.

    It is a bit like getting behind with your mortgage but then going out and racking up debt on your credit card because shopping makes you feel better!

  • 5 Senator13 // May 19, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    I think people loose perspective of the number we are talking about because of the billions and billions of dollars that have been thrown around recently as if it happens every day.

    We are talking about -$300,000,000,000.00. That is a big big big number for Australia.

    Rudd and Co. can justify it as a percentage of GDP or give comparison to being “better off” then other countries; but we are talking serious debt and at some point we are going to have to deal with it. So who are we going to call? Ghostbusters? I think this one is out of their jurisdiction.

    Three Hundred Billion – it’s a scary number.

  • 6 Ned S // May 23, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Senator13 & Greg

    Senator: Just trying to get my head around the number 300 billion. That is maybe the equivalent of building two more cities the size of Canberra????? Yes, put in that context it is a lot of loot alright. Let’s hope it is spent very wisely. Smile!

    Greg: The Libs versus the current drones – At best it a matter of choosing the least incompetant of two packs of no-hopers I think. Because they will still be taking the same general advice. And doing what short sighted vote addicted politicians do. And the problems are still 1) ignorance and 2) arrogance and 3) dishonesty. With neither being prepared to acknowledge (or at least accept) they have very little real idea what they are doing or how geninely insignificant their efforts are in the big scheme of things or tell Australians a few home truths like they have become a mob of entitlement minded bludgers and debt addicted fools – Because their policies for running the country and collecting votes both rely on people being debt addicted consumers or welfare recipients.

  • 7 Greg Atkinson // May 25, 2009 at 8:09 am

    Ned if we could just pick the talent from any party and form a government we would be better served. Neither the Libs/Nats or Labor have enough talent to make up a Cabinet so we end up with people in key positions that you normally would not let run a stall at the local fete.

    I think the historical difference is that Labor tend governments tend to be big spenders whereas the Conservatives are more pro-business and give the impression they spend less. At the moment I would prefer we had a pro-business government in power.

    But as you say all politicians are driven by the urge to get re-elected and therefore are focused pretty much on short term outcomes. I guess we could go for four year terms?

  • 8 Senator13 // May 25, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Ned, I fear that the money is not being spent wisely at all. As Greg stated in one of his other posts, the money is going towards ipod docs and street banners. When I first read the list of these projects I laughed and then realised how serious this actually was. A vast majority of this spending seems unnecessary and spending for the sake of spending. Ipod docs are not long term nation building infrastructure. Ipod docs and cash splashes are just short term populism.

    I don’t know if $300 billion could build a new city or two, but I would rather see something substantive like that then ipod docs at skate parks…

  • 9 Ned S // May 25, 2009 at 10:01 am

    Greg – Just picked up an interesting quote off Wikipedia:

    “Many of America’s Founding Fathers hated the thought of political parties. They were sure quarreling factions would be more interested in contending with each other than in working for the common good. They wanted individual citizens to vote for individual candidates, without the interference of organized groups — but this was not to be.”

    A shortage of talent in politics – Speaks for itself I think; By and large talented people can find more fulfilling ways to spend their time.

    Four year terms – Not with the system we have and the type of people it attracts.

    If we do have to make a choice between what is available, the Libs do seem to have the better general track record. Because when push comes to shove it is largely about economic results.

  • 10 Senator13 // May 25, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Yes, im not a fan of four year terms either. It makes me cringe to think of Rudd and Co being in power a year longer at the rate they are racking up debt.

    Four year terms are good if you have a good government. It enables them to get on with the job of governing with out the election cycle getting in the way. But bad if you get a poor government in because it gives them more time to do more damage or perform poorly and you have to wait longer to get rid of them. Also, I think a four year term could make oppositions lazy. They may not really bother to do anything until the last year because they know that nothing can be done in the first three.

  • 11 Ned S // May 25, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Senator – I think you nailed it when you said “A vast majority of this spending seems unnecessary …”

    The issue is that compared to a lot of countries there really isn’t that much that Australia actually needs.

    I suppose some free dental would be handy if they desperately want to give money away.

    Plus health generally and education are always good – Way better than ipods anyway.

    And I wouldn’t mind seeing us take considerably more responsibility for our own defence than we have in the past. Even if it is just an insurance policy that we surely don’t ever want to have to make a claim against. Although I think that concept is pretty unpalatable with Australians generally – By and large we’d rather avoid responsibility unless we see some immediate future payoff.

    Don’t think I’ll touch the public housing debate. Way too much of a Pandora’s box!

    Some transport re our major city centres maybe?

    But apart from that, the one real need always has to be for continually supporting long term “smart” stuff aimed at positioning ourselves to get a return from export dollars.

  • 12 Senator13 // May 25, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Another thing that disturbs me is all this spending from the Federal Government on foot paths, local parks and ipod docks – is it really a thing for the Federal Government to be funding? These are the things that local councils should be handling I would have thought?

    I’m sure the Governments response would be something along the lines of “this is decisive action of an immediate cash injection to stimulate the local economy… blah blah blah”. But I really do not think that lots of little one off projects is actually going to make any real medium term difference and be irrelevant in the longer term. Maybe they figure they will be able to hire a permanent repair man for the ipod docks at the skate park after they are vandalised every week.

    Roads, rail and ports – I really think is a worthy investment and the government should be congratulated on this one. In the Budget they announced new investment of around $8 billion for this. Maybe this initiative alone would have been a better start for stimulus instead of the cash hand outs, pink batts and ipod docs? It could have saved a lot of money and come out with near the same result?

  • 13 Senator13 // May 25, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Also Ned, I think one of the main areas that needs work with this government is the actual targeting of their spending. At the moment they seem to throw it around like confetti. Sprinkle a little hear and a little there trying to please everyone and doing it all at once.

    I would like to see a more consolidated and systematic approach. Instead of trying to do everything all at once – target a particular area one-at-a-time. Get each area right before moving onto the next. I think this would be an improvement. This Government has that many committees, reviews and thoughts all up in the air nothing actually gets done.

    Like you said, there are plenty of areas such as Defence, Health and Education that deserve attention. And I think deserve focused attention in order to first reform them to be able to then improve them.

    One of the things I admired about the previous government was that it always seemed to have a key “project” that it worked on each year. Be it IR reform and the waterfront, work for the dole, gun control or the GST. People may not agree with the actual policies but the point is that the previous government did see them through. They had a clear objective in mind and worked through until their desired outcome was achieved.

  • 14 Ned S // May 25, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    Senator – You won’t get any arguments from me on any of that. A few comments though:

    * In the big scheme of things Australia will go where the world goes.

    * So the stimulus measures we take are really just aimed at softening any blow while we do wait for the world to “correct” itself. Whatever that does end up meaning.

    * Given that, I think we could have taken a more considered approach to how we were going to spend our borrowings.

    * Coming up with a few “smart” ideas aimed at positioning ourselves to maximise our export earnings potential would have impressed me.

  • 15 Greg Atkinson // May 26, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    Ned S – I am pretty unimpressed with where the bulk of the stimulus money is going. I wonder what our ROI is going to be for the $300 billion?

  • 16 Ned S // May 27, 2009 at 3:08 am

    Greg – Your comment about ROI is the businessman in you showing through most likely? It’s a real nice thing to have especially if one is using borrowed money. But then governments aren’t businessmen obviously.

    Rudd would argue the ROI is jobs saved/created I guess while we are in a holding pattern waiting to see where the world goes. That’s fine – I like jobs too.

    What I don’t like is being fibbed to about multi-year 4.5% growth projections for Oz after the world comes out of recession to help Kev balance his books mid term. There are only two ways that can happen for mine: Either a) world governments fail to stave off a bust and we are recovering from a lot lower level than Kev is presumably assuming (which won’t be good for his books anyway – not that I’ve seen them so that is purely speculative) or b) we get some pretty big time inflation happening world wide which is a bit scary in itself – High inflation never ends well and it is surely no guarantee of growth and genuine job creation anyway. As I’ve said before it is starting to sound a lot like stagflation to me – For Oz at least.

    Why would Kev be cooking the books? Well, he does have an election to face some time next year and a lot of frightened voters will choose to believe him rather than reality if reality is sounding too scary I think.

  • 17 Greg Atkinson // May 27, 2009 at 9:46 am

    Ned S – I am quite okay with an ROI being expressed in terms of long term jobs created. What I do not like is that money is being splashed around without an real sense of purpose. The $800 million for community infrastructure foe example will create few long term jobs and is simply an attempt to shore up public support.

    I also do not like seeing a budget being used in a sneaky way to implement social policy. The first priority should be to support the economy not for Labor to try and settle some old scores by attacking things like private healthcare and employee share schemes.

  • 18 Senator13 // May 27, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    Yes Greg, Labor is using the guise of the Global Financial Crisis to slip through their ideologically driven social agenda. We have already seen the watering down of policy in several areas. Also picking up Ned’s point that Australia will go where the world goes – this will also end up applying for climate change. It is ridicules to think that Australia need to lead the world in cutting emissions. We can cut emissions to zero for eternity and it still not reduce global emissions. Iraq has about the same population as us – do they also have to lead the world in this “war on climate change?” No, Rudd needs to start putting Australia’s interests ahead his own popularity. If the Labor party keep heading down this path of ideologically driven social policy it is going to take more then an economic recovery to fix this country.

  • 19 Ned S // May 27, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    Senator – I’m not up to speed on the emissions legislation. If it’s aimed at actually cutting emissions it doesn’t make any sense for Oz to go it alone. If it is more a way to increase tax revenue I can see the attraction to government.

  • 20 Senator13 // May 27, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Ned, in its current form, I don’t think even the Government knows what it is trying to achieve. I think the Government has it in its head that it has to be first at everything but this half baked approach is not going to achieve anything. I think it is just another case of trying to juggle too many balls and push things through all at once with out actually taking the time to get it right. I would rather see them take the time to get one thing right then a lot of things wrong.

    I think their haste in introducing a Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is once again more driven by ideology then facts and science.

    There are more pressing matters to deal with first such as this current economic situation.

    You can’t have a budget trying to sustain jobs on one hand and a policy that is going to hurt jobs and an entire industry on the other. All this right at the time when unemployment is rising. It just does not make sense to me.

  • 21 Ned S // May 28, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Greg – The Rudd government talked me out of private health insurance last year. And Mr Turnbull’s response at the time that lowering the Medicare Levy income test from Rudd’s proposed 100K pa to 70K pa was necessary just convinced me the Libs didn’t want me earning more than 70K pa. Fortunately the GFC has made that goal very easy to achieve – Smile!

    There’s jobs that are productive and worthwhile and others that are just fluff. I’m not big on paying for the fluff ones. Which is why I would have liked to have seen a lot more evidence of some thought having gone into what the stimulus monies would be spent on as well.

  • 22 Ned S // May 28, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    Senator – Just read through my local council’s newsletter. They have $7M in state and federal funding to build an equestrian centre that “is expected to provide a tremendous stimulus to to the local economy for years to come.” (Despite the fact that the last I heard a lot of Aussie councils seemed to be crying poor about the cost of maintaining their existing infrastucture?)

    Plus they are “proud” that the following three projects are going ahead: A new art gallery, a learning centre (tricked if I know what that is?) and a library. We’ve also got “streetscaping” happening. And we are going to investigate putting in “a multi-story commercial development” in an existing economic hub. All such things being described as a “council-driven stimulus plan” – So the rates payers get to pay for it of course.

    I am informed that these initiatives will “help build business confidence”, “provide a catalyst for urban renewal”, “create a thriving cultural hub”, “breathe new life into” an “historical heart”, “help attract additional business activities”, be “a visitor attraction”, make things look pretty etc, etc, etc plus “encourage employment opportunities” of course.

    Hmmm … While I’m sitting here considering whether to drop my house insurance or not – The contents insurance is long gone. As is my private medical insurance. And a fair few other things. I’ll never make it as a Keynsian economist of course. I’m obviously an Austrian born and bred. (Sometimes I consider if I’m Ebeneezar Scrooge reincarnate? Nah, these blokes just love debt – Leastways when someone else is paying for it – And I don’t.)

    Never mind, I’ll hang around until I see the outcome of Ken Henry’s tax review – With its focus on economic, social and environmental capability building. But if I don’t like that, I’ll have to look for friendlier economic climes and leave dear little Oz to sort out it’s debt and give it’s citizens lots of social and environmental capabilities without me.

    No point whinging to any of the incumbents. The difference between them and the opposition is too negligible to be of consequence.

  • 23 Greg Atkinson // May 28, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    Ned S – I would like to actually see private healthcare made more affordable because I think we need a viable alternative to the public health system. If people want to pay a little more for private health insurance then the government should support this as it takes pressure away from the public hospital system. I have no idea why the current Government seems intent on wrecking the private hospital system..any ideas?

  • 24 Ned S // May 28, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Greg – If I had to speculate it could be along similar lines to education. As in there was a time when a kid could get every bit as good an education through the public system as the private one. But talking around I get the impression that is no longer a given. So maybe Rudd thinks that the talent and resources that go into the private system could be better utilised in the public system? Including capped fees maybe???

    Then it just could be that Rudd inclines to the view that everyone should get the same service while Turnbull reckons if you can afford it you should be able to buy it? (They’d both have way more balanced positions than that I fully imagine but could be coming at it from different angles.)

    With Rudd it might be useful to remember that we have a bloke who seems to have gotten a good dose of misfortune in his early life followed up by Whitlam as a bit of a saviour regarding his education. Pretty much a social democrat waiting to be reborn perhaps?

    None of that actually addresses the problems that are presumably coming in Oz health care though.

    I just had an evil thought regarding politicians. Maybe we are coming at it from the wrong slant, as in rather than reserve the right to vote them out, the job should be a life sentence with annual KPIs we vote on, and failure to meet target results in 10 strokes of the rattan plus halving of salary or some such. With the only way of getting out of the job being to successfully meet all KPIs for a decade. Let them stay there until they get it right! (The Marquis de Sade would be proud of me – Smile.)

  • 25 Greg Atkinson // May 30, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Ned S – I think the danger is we start to get into the politics of envy. Frankly there are many people with a lot more money than me who will be able to afford access to a whole range of services beyond my reach…so what?

    If people want to send their children to a private school where each kid is issued a pony how does it really hurt me? In fact it takes pressure away from the public school system and remember the parents that send their children to private schools still pay taxes, so they are still funding in effect the public school system.

    As far the public hospital system is concerned all I can say is that my experiences with it mean that I would use my last dollar (almost) and crawl to a private hospital before I went anywhere near a public hospital. Many public hospitals are simply badly managed and I doubt that throwing more money at them will lead to long term improvements.

    So why does the government want to force people towards a hospital system with systemic problems? Maybe they should first fix the problems, raise the standard of care and then worry about attacking private health care?

  • 26 Ned S // May 30, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    Greg – The politics of envy – As in Covert not they neighbour’s goods maybe? Yes, looking at what someone else has and wanting it too can set quite unrealistic expectations.

    From what I can hear, one of the big issues in education is that the standards of the home tend to come into the school. Although no politician wants to hit that problem head on I imagine.

    My personal experience of the private and public hospital systems is different to yours. I feel comfortable enough going public. Because I’ve mostly found it thorough and professional. Although stretched and no frills. Private health insurance was convenient for things where the public system would put a person on the back-burner though. But my expectations really aren’t too high when it comes to hospitalisation I think. Fix me and let me out when I’m up to it. I definitely found the private system was real keen to reclaim the bed for the next lucky chap on one occasion. I might have just hit them at a very bad time. But it didn’t leave a good impression of the quality of the service. It was just a bit too mercenary.

  • 27 Senator13 // May 30, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    People should not have to lower their expectations when going to a hospital no matter if it is public or private. The level of service/care should be of high standard in each. I think there is a need for government to support both systems but in this budget their spending priorities are off in my opinion…

    With Australia having an ageing population I would have thought that getting the health and hospital system right would be more of a priority. In the not too distant future this issue is really going to need to come into sharp focus.

    The Government wants to take early action on something like climate change – action that will have no impact on global emissions or the environment – but it is not prepared to take early action in preparing the country for its changing demographics. What are going to be the impacts of something like this? Could this pose more of an immediate threat to our economy and way of life?

  • 28 Greg Atkinson // May 31, 2009 at 9:13 am

    Ned S – when I mentioned the politics of envy the “we” referred to the nation as a whole, not just you and I 🙂

    I do think public hospitals are important of course and I am sure many people have had positive experiences with them, my point was that there should be “choice” and that having a viable private hospital system is the way to create that choice.

    I agree with your point about the schools…there are a lot of issues nobody wants to deal with. It is a fact that some parents send their children to a private school simply to avoid going the the public schools in their area because of their poor reputations.

  • 29 Ned S // May 31, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    Greg – I think I’ve got a reasonably broad perspective on the politics of envy – It can apply at any level. Individual; Family; Regional; National; “tribe” – Demographic grouping generally. People fall into the trap very easily.

    Without dwelling on all the obvious examples of people at the bottom looking up, some examples of the opposite we’ve seen recently in Australia is people who are reasonably well off looking at Rudd’s handouts and feeling just a touch miffed (or worse) because they don’t get any.

    A chap with a PhD in his early 30s who described himself as “destroyed” when he found he was going to miss out on the $900 – He’d planned to put it towards his mortage. Admitedly the PhD was in media production or some such so he may have been a bit of a natural dramatist anyway? (And it was a media report rather than anyone I know personally.) But one example I do know of personally:

    Someone earning maybe $200,000 pa in a secure job but with a spouse who “only” works part-time and four pretty expensive teenage children thinking that they deserve it to – And certainly could use it given their fairly high standard of living generally. And surely has paid their fair share of tax over the years. A fairly committed ALP supporter for what it is worth?

    And another on a national level – An American who reckoned Barrick Obama was great at least partially because their impression was that Obama would re-distribute the nation’s wealth more equitably – But on being pressed as to what they thought about the prospect of China’s real per capita GDP just maybe going up over time while America’s went down, really didn’t warm to the idea at all.

    Lots of perspectives is about all I can say. With people probably needing to try to be realistic. But it does point out the moral hazard that can come with doling out freebies to anyone.

  • 30 Greg Atkinson // May 31, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Ned S – you are correct, it works both ways. Some people moan because they feel the “workers” are getting a free ride because they pay less taxes and get more benefits and others feel the rich should be taxed in a way that redistributes wealth.

    I also agree that handing out freebies just creates problems. I guess I might be a little “old school” in that I reckon you appreciate things more if you worked hard for them. If you believe you can live okay from handouts where is the incentive to work and learn new skills? Some people will of course always push to improve themselves and work hard but the fact is plenty of people will not.

    I would like to see the nation create opportunities for people to advance themselves and where jobs are there for people who want them, not simply redistribute wealth because I think that creates the wrong environment in terms of driving people to succeed. Of course we need to look after people who cannot work or are unable though no fault of their own, to provide for themselves or their families.

    So rather than any government getting into social engineering I would prefer they just managed the economy in such a way that jobs and opportunities were created. This should the focus of the government now, not on settling some old scores with the wealthy or big business etc.

    Finally I have to say President Obama worries me a little, he is splashing around the cash but I wonder when U.S debt will be under control again or will his term be the one that tips the U.S. a long period of economic decline?

  • 31 Ned S // May 31, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    Greg – Social engineering is real iffy stuff. It had a place when people were in poverty. (Like about 70 years ago and prior.) But we are an extremely long way from that in Australia now.

    Our media is probably a significant part of the problem. They want to sell “newspapers” and while times have changed, people haven’t. People still revel in being told how hard done by they are and why they deserve more.

    We do see a lot of incongruous stuff – Anectodal only (but from a bloke I’ve not known to tell a fib in the 35 odd years I’ve known him) – About a chap who runs a nice little “cash” business as a cleaner and even employs at least one other bloke. Whose long term lady is on the single mum’s pension. Between them, the chap and his lady probably don’t have an ounce of money management skills and will always be broke. Despite the fact that they presumably have a pretty good tax free income and a lifestyle that is heavily tax payer subsidised.

    So from the other side of things, I can also understand people who are reasonably well off but know about that sort of stuff feeling a touch miffed on missing out on Rudd’s various freebies.

    Barack Obama – About all I’d say is that as an American president he can be expected to do what he thinks is best for America. And as a politician he can be expected to execute those actions in ways that he thinks are likely to keep him and his in power.

    America and a long period of decline – That fits pretty well with my general take on it that stagflation is a very likely outcome. But I continue to remember that the country has a huge amount going for it long term.

  • 32 Ned S // Jun 1, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    Senator – The word “realistic” keeps coming up with me in relation to a lot of this stuff. And trying to be realistic, Australia doesn’t have any culture of valuing its senior citizens highly. If the cost of keeping senior citizens alive and in reasonable health gets high, changes in health care that are not favourable to them could certainly occur.

    Would the voting power of the oldies and a bit of fear from the youngies that Their turn will come, mitigate that? Let’s just say I don’t feel confident relying on it. Macfarlane certainly identified health care as an issue that has the potential to become contentious and divisive.

    One thing I believe works against getting a more cost effective health care system is that the medical profession is a very powerful self interest group that has had a high degree of success in convincing the community that only very high standards as set by them are acceptable. (Of course the fact that Australia seems to have developed a mindset of Let’s sue the pants off them when they get it wrong doesn’t help either.)

    But I can actually see the potential for improving the system overall by relaxing some of the very high standards. And looking for more cost effective and quite workable alternatives.

    One very simple example: It makes no sense to me that highly qualified people like GPs probably spend 90% of their working day argeeing with people that they have an ailment that the person has just told the GP that they have. If we can’t find a way to improve on that, we just aren’t trying.

  • 33 Senator13 // Jun 1, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    Ned – Yeah, it is pretty complex and I don’t really have any answers. I don’t really have much knowledge on social policy issues, but as an outsider looking into the system it is pretty obvious there are some fundamental problems. Also, I would have thought if they were a straight forward fix then it would be the perfect opportunity to do so given Labor is in at the federal level and also the states… They should be cooperating and getting things done by now. They are all on the same team so they have no excuse. Maybe the problems run even deeper then I suspected?

  • 34 Greg Atkinson // Oct 22, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    Well I just read an article a few days ago that said that the public hospital system had basically become worse since Rudd came to office so what does that say?

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